For over 100 years artists and activists lived at the Chelsea Hotel. Even though the hotel itself was a bit broken-down, seekers were attracted to its cheap prices and the ecosystem of creativity that existed both behind the doors and in the hallways. While many great artists walked the hallways, it is the soul of the Chelsea that is the star here. People came to live and work in this run-down hotel because they wanted to have a voice through their music, writing, acting, or activism. People put up with the Chelsea’s idiosyncrasies because it was part catalyst, part incubator, part warm embrace. The first time I stayed at the Chelsea I had to pay a $2 deposit for my towel!
5 years ago, a homeless former resident of the Chelsea sold four dozen doors that he had rescued from the interior demolition. Despite his circumstances, he gave half of the money to the Food Bank For New York City. I was fortunate enough to buy most of these iconic doors.
These doors are among the last remaining witnesses. They were literally in the rooms where it all happened. Doors provide privacy and are also passageways to worlds beyond. Whether it was soaring creativity or some kind of depraved party, the doors let you in and the doors let you out. Waiting for the drug dealer or Gertrude Stein, or Yoko Ono, the doors stood as sentry to those from the outside and as guards for those of us that lived inside.
Creativity exacts a price. People made the choice to stay at the Chelsea because they were committed to having a voice. What are we willing to do in our own lives to have a voice? What sacrifices are we willing to make? What price are we willing to pay
The Chelsea has been undergoing a long restoration, but the original doors are safely tucked away, patiently waiting for their first world tour. These are the doors that Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Quentin Crisp and so many other giants lived behind, sometimes hid behind, and perhaps most significantly, created behind. It was behind these doors that artists found their safe and not so safe spaces, to think, to breathe and ultimately, to communicate. Whether it was through music or the spoken word, the greats, the not so great, and the not yet great, came to drink at the magical fountain that was the Chelsea. Some drank too much. Sometimes you could smell the person that came before you in the communal bathroom down the hall, but who cares if it’s part of the price of feeling more alive and making art happen.
The first step on the world tour is an album to share the wit, wisdom, and wonders that these doors have been privileged to witness. Yes, there are scratch marks, and some kicked in dents, but through these peepholes and unlocked bolts, artists lived their lives with magic, desperation, and fierce commitment. If this album was only a walk down memory lane, it would be a huge, missed opportunity. This is not an oldies album, it is a celebration of the human spirit; it is dedicated to all the people willing to live their lives on the edge, because what the fuck else is there to do?
With respect for all that these doors have seen and heard, and excitement about their potential to inspire creativity and positive action.
“These doors are among the last remaining witnesses.”